By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Athletes, aware of history, are always conscious of legacy. Like scrawling initials in a concrete sidewalk before it dries, they want to leave their mark. Bedford North Lawrence golfers are no different. And they have a chance to make their mark in the record book.
BNL has won only one regional championship (1985) in program history. The 14th-ranked Stars, coming off an 11th consecutive sectional title, are in prime position to add another significant trophy to their coveted cache when they compete in the IHSAA regional at Country Oaks on Saturday.
Depending on which holds greater worth, the rankings or the scores from the sectionals feeding into this regional, BNL is either the favorite – ranked ahead of No.19 Terre Haute South – or the top contender. South shot 312 to win its sectional at Forest Park Golf Course near Brazil, while BNL carded 328 at Otis Park.
So while BNL’s main objective remains a top-three regional finish to earn a berth in next week’s state championship, wouldn’t it be sweet to come home with a grand prize? The Stars have shifted their focus from mere survival to possible victory.
“State has always been our goal,” BNL coach Kori Johnston said. “It wasn’t until recently, when we looked at the regional and the teams we’ll be playing, the fact we have a chance to win it has caught our attention. So our goal is to go into it knowing we can win it, and at least just punch our ticket.”
BNL is gunning for back-to-back trips to Prairie View for the state finals for the first time since 2018. That’s some small piece of history. But now the Stars have that gleam in their eyes and motivation in their hearts for greater.
“We’re good at making memories, and our names in the history book would make the memories mean a ton more to us,” senior Chloe McFaddin said. “It would stick with us for a lifetime. We’ve been closer than ever, so winning the regional with this team would mean a lot to us – and a ton to Coach. She’s put a lot of time into us, and that would top it all off for her.“
BNL finished second in last year’s regional, and the roster (including Kinleigh Root, Kenley Craig, Ellie Horton and Sammie Nusbaum) has plenty of experience on the regional course. They refer to Country Oaks as their “second home” after several summer events and multiple appearances there the last three years.
The Stars also have the firepower to post low scores. They carded a record-setting 153 on the back nine at Otis earlier this year, and their season-best team total for 18 holes has been 327. Anything in that range, or lower, will be in contention to claim the top prize.
That also means a little more pressure. Last year Castle was the overwhelming favorite and runaway winner. The Knights will be there to defend (after carding 346 in their sectional at Fendrich in Evansville) but with a revamped lineup. The spotlight has shifted to the Stars.
“Having a little bit of pressure is always a good thing,” Johnston said. “Playing against people who are competitive can push us to play our best. So I’m happy about that. Knowing we have a chance can fire us up.
“They joke and say it’s like their second home. They have a lot of confidence on the course. We’re happy we’re in this position again, and we’ll try our best to reach it. If we can manage anything in the 320s or below, that will give us that chance to earn the ticket.“
McFaddin has been a fixture in the top spot of the lineup, but Root and Craig (the sectional medalist) have also been team frontrunners at different points this season. Getting a solid score from Horton or Nusbaum would strengthen their position.
“Country Oaks has been my favorite course,” McFaddin said. “I’ve always had good rounds there. We all love playing there. There’s definitely some competition out there, but I feel if we go out there with our A game, there’s a good chance we can come home with a win. But we have to have the solid mindset, that there’s a chance we could not make it. Winning would be the best way to go out.“
BNL could be peaking at the perfect time. The Stars can also take advantage of the firm playing conditions – tee shots are bouncing great distances on rain-starved ground – with their length to shorten their approach shots. Everything points in BNL’s favor. But golf is the ultimate “what have you done today” sport. The past matters not.
“If we don’t show up and don’t play well, there are teams right behind us, ready to fill in,” Johnston said. “I think we’re getting there. We’ve talked a lot about our mental game, and it’s really dialing in. It’s starting to click, they’re starting to realize how much of a difference smart golf plays. If you don’t get rattled by bad shots, you can recover. Swings are starting to get dialed in.”
The top three teams in the 15-team field, plus the top three individuals who are not members of qualifying teams, will advance to the state finals on Sept. 29-30. BNL has made nine previous appearances in the final stage of their state tournament series.
The Stars will start teeing off between 10:10 and 10:50 a.m. Mitchell’s Anna Sowders will compete as an individual and tee off at 9:10.
Saturday at Country Oaks
Terre Haute South, Terre Haute North, Parke Heritage, Jasper, Gibson Southern, Southridge, Castle, Evansville Mater Dei, Evansville Memorial, Barr-Reeve, Washington, North Daviess, BNL, Brownstown, Springs Valley.